Covid death statistics revisited

Due to inconsistent reporting — or outright omission of reports — the actual number of deaths that can be attributed to Covid remains a subject of debate. The running totals are wrong, even in countries with sophisticated tracking systems. But just how wrong and in what direction?

Ultimately, debate can be resolved by focusing on something we can only know after the fact: how many more deaths occurred during the Covid pandemic than would have occurred during a “normal” or average year?

There are two models for excess mortality due to Covid. One has been built by the staff of the medical journal, The Lancet. The other has been constructed by the staff at the British economic and business journal, The Economist. What’s remarkable is that we have different models, different assumptions and remarkably similar results.

  • The Lancet model estimates global deaths from Covid-19 as 18.2 million people.
  • The Economist model estimates total excess deaths from Covid-19 as 20 million.
  • Both estimates are more than three times larger than the officially published numbers. The current Johns Hopkins University compilation of official statistics places the death tool at 6.1 million.

The Economist model provides more details regarding age groups and geography. Highlights include:

  • The worst country in terms of deaths per capita is Russia, with estimated losses of 1.3 million people.
  • The US performed almost up to the level of other major countries in preventing deaths in 2020, and then sagged badly in 2021.
  • The best countries in coping with the pandemic were island nations in the Pacific, notably New Zealand. Due to the care provided, New Zealand may be had fewer deaths than normal during the pandemic — the only country where the estimate of excess deaths is a negative number.

The poor performance of the US in 2021 ties to resistance to vaccination, and an even greater resistance to booster shots. At 29%, the US ranks behind Poland and Slovenia in acceptance of boosters — and that may pose a major risk to the US in the near future.

Research has proven that the effectiveness of current vaccines fades badly after 6 months, which is why the booster program exists. People who were vaccinated more than six months ago have lost most of their protection. People who received a booster six months ago also have reduced protection, which is the reason for encouraging second booster shots.

The new Omicron variant BA.2 has become the dominant strain across the globe, accounting for 86% of all new cases.

BA.2 is just taking off in the US and represents around 35% of new cases here. As noted in a prior post, this variant is a quickly growing proportion of new cases, and is the reason why the number of cases in the US has bottomed out. BA.2 is just as transmissible as the original Omicron variant, but may present more difficult medical challenges.

We may be on the cusp of seeing another Covid wave in the US, with a spike in hospitalizations and deaths. While medical researchers are reluctant to be alarmist about BA.2, with the proportion of unvaccinated in the US, and the larger proportion of vaccinated with degraded protection, we’ll be very lucky not to get hammered.

The New Yorker summary article is excellent.


Found online — can we have an alligator sent to Mr. Putin?


  1. In the UK, there is no requirement to do anything if one is positive, too, so what difference does it make, whether one is tested or not?

    At the same time as our official numbers are the highest they have ever been – since forever – the government are also stepping down reporting. They took the week off from reporting at christmas, and have now stopped reporting at weekends.

    My view is that covid will always be with us, therefore we should concentrate on making it a non-fatal disease. It’s no good saying, “If everyone got vaccinated…”, because they won’t. Every government, by and large, has at least partially failed, although NZ is an exception, based on your post. What sort of vaccination rates does NZ have, do you know? Or, are they just better at caring?

    Liked by 1 person

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